Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Warping up a Simple Rigid Heddle Loom

Basic learners loom
I have very little weaving experience but wanted to see if I could add a continuous warp to the Mini Loom sold by George Weil.  I had thought that the loom was just a basic frame and that the size of the woven cloth would be determined by the looms length and width. However, the warp can be extended so that scarves or table runners can also be woven on it!

Here are the step by step photos which I took while learning how to add a continuous warp to the loom so that it can be unwound to allow for a longer length of weaving.  I have used two colours of yarn to help demonstrate the difference in the shed which is made when the heddle bar is moved backwards and forwards (see my previous blog post about weaving on the Mini Loom).

I placed the loom on my dining table and wedged foam sponge inside the frame edge to stop it slipping while I tied one end of my Tekapo DK Wool Yarn onto the back of a chair (use a warping post if you have one). I then took the yarn around my first hook on the beam and back around the chair, repeating the process until the width of the loom was warped up.

It was difficult to maintain a consistent tension because the sponges did not stop the frame from moving about so I decided to use another chair and tie the loom to it before adding my second colour of warp which I took around the alternative teeth of the beam (see right).

The warp yarn taken through the hooks on the beam.  It is important to try and maintain the same tension for each of the warp threads.  Once the last warp thread was tied onto the beam, I removed the beam by loosening the wing nuts either side and sliding it out of the slot.

Removing the warp from the warping post

With the warp threads still tied onto the back of the chair, I pull the beam towards me to keep the threads taut.  I then placed a length of paper along the beam and rolled the beam down and away from me so that the warp threads rolled onto the beam. 

I continued adding lengths of paper along the beam as I rolled on the warp to help keep the warp threads separated.

Rolling on the continuous warp

When I had finished winding on my warp, I cut it from the back of the chair and then placed the threads into their relevant heddle slots, starting with the blue yarn and alternating with the orange yarn, taking them down through the slots on the front beam (see below).

Warp threads through the heddle

Nearly ready to weave!  When all the warp threads were positioned correctly, I took three or four threads in each hand and tied each group together.

Weaving on a basic loom 

The loom comes with two shuttles and I used one for my blue yarn and the other for my orange yarn.  I started my weaving with the blue yarn and then alternated the colours after a few rows of each.  When the weaving begins to get close to the heddle bar it is time to wind the weaving on.  You need to loosen off the wing nuts on both the front and back bars.  When you wind the back bar towards you it releases more of the warp, when you wind the front bar towards you the weaving is wound onto it and the warp tightened.

Below the heddle bar shows how the warp threads are separated to accepted the weft yarn which is wound onto the shuttle.  Moving the bar one way lifts the blue threads and moving the bar the other way lifts the orange threads.

The warp threads parting to create the shed.

Ashford Sample It LoomAn excellent demonstration for adding a warp to a more advanced rigid heddle loom, such as the Ashford Sample It Loom (left) can be found on the Ashford website.

The Ashford Sample It Loom is available from George Weil, as are a choice of other weaving looms, weaving equipment such as shuttles and warping posts, weaving yarns and a large selection of books about weaving techniques.

~ Allison Holland

Friday, 9 May 2014

Types of Drawing Pastels

Pastels are made from pure finely powdered pigments which are ground into a paste with water and a gum or methyl cellulose binder, rolled into sticks and then allowed to dry.  Pumice may be added to make the pastel abrasive to create more tooth on the paper surface, while chalk is added to the pigment to create paler shades.  They can be used in combination with other dry media such as charcoal, coloured conte crayons, and pastel pencils, but will not cover graphite pencil lines. 

Unison Colour handmade pastels

An excerpt from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History - The Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portrait says 'Pastels have always been praised for the freshness of their colors, at once both brilliant and subtle. Although we now recognize their fragility, in the eighteenth century pastels were often thought more durable than oils, as these vibrant colors were less susceptible to damage by light (oils often faded or yellowed with age). Pastel, too, afforded the artist a richer interplay between medium and support than oils did. Pastel paintings were commonly executed on blue paper mounted on canvas, not only because this was the thickest paper available in the eighteenth century, but also because of the chromatic advantages it offered as the pigments of the pastel picked up and interacted with the blue background' read in full.

Paper for Pastel Drawings Textured paper with enough tooth to retain the medium is the best used for pastel or charcoal drawings. The texture is formed on a cylinder mould machine by pressing the paper fibres between the cylinder mesh and the marking felt. This surface texture is known as a chain and laid line surface. A good choice for pastel drawing is Canson Ingres or Canson Mi-Teintes paper.  The finished drawing should be protected either under glass (not touching the surface) or between sheets of Glassine paper to stop the pastel from smudging.  There are a variety of spray fixatives which should be applied carefully to ensure the colours are not effected.

Soft Pastels Soft pastels contain a higher proportion of pigment giving excellent colour which is readily blended.  These pastels tend to leave a high dust residue which needs to be intermittently blown off the drawing to prevent unplanned smudging and marks. 

Water soluble Pastels These soft pastels contain a water-soluble component which allows the colours to be thinned out to an even, semi-transparent consistency using a water wash. The colours are easily blended with water applied by brush.

Hard Pastels The higher proportion of binder in hard pastels allows fine detail drawing.  The colours are less brilliant than soft pastels but are ideal for adding accents or outlines to soft pastel drawings, and for preliminary sketches. 

Oil Pastels The pigment is mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder making a soft, buttery consistency which fills the grain of the paper.  The intense colours can be thinned with turpentine and do not require a fixative.

Browse the large range of pastels available from George Weil to find out more.

Nicky Nikolov's YouTube film: Drawing a Girl Portrait in Soft Pastel

Nicky Nikolov's YouTube film: Drawing a Girl Portrait in Soft Pastel

The Pastel Society UK The Pastel Society promotes the use of pastels and arranges regular workshops in pastel and dry media.